On Wednesday the European Parliament official voted for the adoption of the five-year Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP).
The adoption of the RSPP should essentially allow for the same spectrum frequencies to be used across member states for mobile broadband services. This makes it much easier for equipment makers to ensure their kit works in different countries. It comes as little surprise that the RSPP has been officially adopted, as it was proposed back in September 2010 and then gained the backing of MEPs in Strasbourg in May 2011.
“Radio spectrum supports 3.5 million jobs and more than 250 billion euros (£208bn) of economic activity each year in Europe, including incredibly popular services such as wireless broadband,” said the European Commission. “The Commission therefore welcomes the European Parliament’s adoption of the five-year Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) which will allow sufficient spectrum to be made available for wireless applications and services such as high speed 4th generation (4G) wireless broadband.”
“Adoption of the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme will help reduce the digital divide, make Europe a connected and competitive continent and introduce more wireless broadband choices,” said European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes.
So what exactly does adoption of the RSPP mean for European countries? Well before July 2015, member states have to undertake the following steps:
Additional action by 2015 includes spectrum trading; ensuring sufficient harmonised spectrum becomes available for safety services and civil protection; and ensuring there is ready environment to encourage greater investment, competition and innovation.
Several European countries, including Finland, Germany and Sweden, have had 4G networks for some time now, but the UK is lagging behind. However, the UK has had to wait until spectrum was freed up from the digital TV switchover, but matters have not been helped by bickering mobile operators.
Ofcom had been prepared to auction the use of the 800MHz spectrum and the 2.6GHz band in the first quarter of this year, but last October the regulator was forced to delay the spectrum auction yet again to allow for another consultation. This delay came despite Ofcom denying in September 2011 that it would delay the auction.
The policy advisory group Open Digital has previously warned that the delay in rolling out 4G networks would cost British businesses £730 million a year. It is claimed that the faster download speeds offered by 4G could save British companies more than 37 million business hours a year.
Ofcom meanwhile has warned that the first commercial 4G services are unlikely to appear before 2013, with nationwide rollout not completed until at least 2017.